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May 2002

The Laboratory
in the News

Commentary by
Jeff Wadsworth

Building a Virtual Telescope

A New Understanding of Soft Materials

At Livermore, Audacious Physics Has Thrived for
50 years




Jeff Wadsworth, Deputy Director of Science and Technology

Jeff Wadsworth
Deputy Director for
Science and Technology

A Project with Multidimensional Purposes

FOR many years, Livermore researchers have played a major role in advancing astrophysical knowledge through their expertise in high-energy-density physics and advanced computer modeling. The astrophysics community has benefited from Livermore contributions in the search for dark matter in the universe, laser guide star optics that sharpen astronomical views made from Earth, advanced instruments for U.S. and European spacecraft, and laboratory-created hot plasmas similar to those existing in distant stars.
Livermore researchers are again breaking new ground by developing, for the first time, a three-dimensional (3D) modeling program that simulates the evolution and structure of stars. The complex code is called Djehuty, after the Egyptian god who is said to have invented writing, the measurement of time, music, magic, art, medicine, mathematics, and astronomy. The physical processes of stars have long been of interest to Livermore researchers because understanding the prime stellar energy mechanism, thermonuclear fusion, is part of the Laboratory’s national security mission. In that respect, Djehuty is well aligned with Livermore’s programmatic interests that focus on understanding high-temperature physics and performing accurate numerical simulations of complex physical reactions.
As detailed in the article entitled Building a Virtual Telescope, developing the first 3D code to realistically model the evolution of stars was a formidable challenge. The Djehuty development effort is succeeding in large part by leveraging Livermore’s experience with massively parallel supercomputers (machines with thousands of processors) and their codes. The Djehuty team took advantage of the expertise developed in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Advanced Simulation and Computing program, an important component of Stockpile Stewardship. Djehuty’s development also benefited from our scientific expertise in astrophysics and high-energy-density phenomena.
Djehuty is a good example of our long-standing success in putting together teams of researchers from different disciplines. In this case, specialists from the Defense and Nuclear Technologies Directorate, the Physics and Advanced Technologies Directorate, and the Computation Directorate’s Center for Applied Scientific Computing collaborated on the project.
Djehuty resides at the Livermore branch of the University of California’s Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP). The Astrophysics Center at IGPP is the focus of astrophysics and planetary physics activities at Livermore. The center collaborates with all University of California campuses, more than 30 U.S. universities, and more than 20 international universities. One of its goals is to foster collaboration among visiting scientists on projects that are important to astrophysics and that require the unique simulation capabilities of Djehuty.
An important aspect of Djehuty is its funding as a three-year Strategic Initiative (SI) under the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. LDRD was authorized by Congress to provide a means for directors of the Department of Energy national laboratories to fund innovative, high-risk research and development projects in support of Laboratory and DOE missions.
Strategic Initiatives within LDRD are usually large and technically challenging. An SI project must be aligned with the strategic research and development priorities of at least one of the Laboratory’s four strategic councils: the Council on Energy and Environmental Systems, the Council on National Security, the Council on Biosciences and Biotechnology, and the Council on Strategic Science and Technology. Although many deserving SI proposals are considered, less than one-third can be funded; the competition is keen, and only the best ideas can be supported.
The Livermore effort to revolutionize the modeling of stellar evolution and structure is being well received by the international scientific community. I am confident that Djehuty will help advance the astrophysics discipline, strengthen our capabilities in complex modeling, and enable many scientific collaborations with the academic community.


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UCRL-52000-02-5 | May 28, 2002